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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Historical footage shows shocking displays of racism and homophobia from elected officials and entertainers from the 1960s-1980s.
Positive Role Models
While he struggled with abandonment issues after his mother left him and his brother to an adoptive white family, Justin Fashanu rose above and became a popular professional soccer player even as he endured racism; however, he was unable to overcome the homophobia of 1980s Britain, and as his popularity faded, he sank lower and lower, eventually being accused of sexually assaulting a teen boy. Justin's brother, John, while expressing some remorse, was unsympathetic to Justin's sexual orientation and treated him as a rival.
Violence & Scariness
Talk of Fashanu's sexual assault of a teen boy. Mention of Fashanu's suicide.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Talk of how Fashanu used "rent boys," or male prostitutes. Mention of how scandals broke out in England in which tabloids revealed that many politicians were having homosexual affairs.
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There's footage of Eddie Murphy in the early 1980s performing an extremely homophobic stand-up routine in which he makes fun of the spread of AIDS. Conservative British politicians such as Margaret Thatcher are shown railing against homosexuality and the gay rights movement. "F--k" used infrequently. "Poof" used (British slang term for homosexual men). Outdated terms for people of color such as "colored."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some drinking in pubs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story is a 2017 documentary about the first professional soccer player to come out as gay while still playing the sport. The movie talks frankly about the racism Fashanu endured while growing up with his younger brother as children of color in a white family in an entirely white village amid the backdrop of extreme racial tensions in the UK of the 1960s and '70s. It shows some shocking displays of homophobia in the 1980s, including a comedy routine by Eddie Murphy centered on the spread of AIDS by homosexual men, and various British politicians condemning homosexuals and homosexuality as an affront to "traditional values." Despite being the first pro soccer player to come out as gay, Fashanu isn't a hero by any means, and his story is a tragedy. While initially a phenomenal player admired by millions and signing what was at the time a huge contract, Fashanu clung to his fame by any means necessary. He engaged in a variety of increasingly odd publicity stunts as his career waned, was known to consort with "rent boys," or male prostitutes, and at the end of his life, stood accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy while he was a soccer coach in Baltimore; he then committed suicide. This documentary is an eye-opening look at how extremely homophobic so much of society was just decades ago, and the tragic impact it had on the life and death of a gifted athlete. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This documentary is a nuanced, warts-and-all documentary on the first "footballer" to come out as gay. Forbidden Games: The Justin Fashanu Story does a masterful job at presenting the complexities inside and outside Fashanu's life. Fashanu overcame abandonment issues when his mother put him and his brother up for adoption, and found in soccer a way to overcome the extreme racial tensions in the UK during the 1960s and '70s. His star rose quickly, and as he compiled legendary game-winning goals, he signed what was at the time a lucrative contract for 1 million pounds. But this documentary also paints the portrait of a troubled man desperate for fame who lived a flashy lifestyle and, while the first "out" gay professional soccer player, only did it when a tabloid offered him money to do so. It shows a man who consorted with male prostitutes, had scandalous affairs with conservative politicians, and was eventually accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy before committing suicide, in part, to avoid trial and possible jail time.
What is especially incredible and shocking about this documentary is the way it uses the historical context of the times to provide a better understanding of the world and culture in which Fashanu lived. Racist speeches from politicians of the 1960s, racist jokes in British television comedies, speeches from conservative British politicians of the '80s and '90s (including Margaret Thatcher and John Major) condemning homosexuality as an affront to "traditional values," and an incredibly ignorant comedy routine by Eddie Murphy are hard to watch. It makes one wonder how it might have been for Fashanu had he come up in relatively enlightened times. Overall, this is an engrossing documentary, tragic on so many levels, that is best for mature teens and up.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.